Queens Gazette

I On Politics

 

MALONEY JOINS HUNTER COLLEGE PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Thirty-year Congressional veteran Carolyn Maloney will spend the spring 2023 semester as Eleanor Roosevelt Distinguished Leader in Residence at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute.

Announcement of Rep. Maloney’s appointment was made on Jan. 10 by Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. The Congresswoman’s tenure begins on January 25.

“We are delighted and honored to welcome Carolyn Maloney to Hunter,” President Raab said. “Her vast experience in Washington on social and economic concerns — particularly on issues of deep concern to women and girls — provides a practical and inspiring foundation for teaching and mentoring our public policy and human rights students. This residency will provide a unique opportunity for them to engage with a Congressional legend on a range of critical policy concerns. Ms. Maloney will work directly with students on such issues as the Equal Rights Amendment and infrastructure, engage with classes and student organizations, and develop and introduce public events at Roosevelt House. She will also work as a Co-Leader in its Eva Kasten Grove Program, in which small, select cohorts of students pursue and advocate for policy projects under the leadership of seasoned professionals from the public sphere.

“Congresswoman Maloney was always a staunch advocate for public higher education in general, and Hunter College in particular,” President Raab added, “and was among the first public officials to advocate for the preservation and restoration of Roosevelt House. So it is with a sense of history coming full cycle that we look forward now to sharing her knowledge, legendary energy, and impassioned advocacy in service to students, faculty, and the public in the landmark building she once fought with us to save.”

From 1993 until the end of 2022, Maloney represented the Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, and parts of Brooklyn and Queens in the House of Representatives — a district whose borders changed over the years, but always included the Hunter College campus. Over the years, she held dozens of community meetings, issue briefings, and news conferences at Roosevelt House.

Maloney began her professional career as a teacher and administrator for the New York City Board of Education. She later held staff positions in both the State Senate and State Assembly. First elected to the New York City Council in 1982, she became the first member to introduce a law to legalize domestic partnerships. The first Council Member to give birth while in office, she also pioneered in the cause of expanded day care funding and legal recognition of domestic partnerships, including same-sex couples. She also created and chaired the first City Council Contracts Committee and passed major legislation on campaign finance reform.

In Congress, she championed federal aid for New York’s recovery from the 2001 terrorist attacks, authoring the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Among many other initiatives, she sponsored gun control measures, advocated for environmental protection, helped secure federal funding to complete the long-delayed Second Avenue Subway, and supported increased federal funding for health care. A onetime co-chair of the House Caucus on Women’s Issues, she sponsored such legislation as the Child Care Affordability Act of 2007, the Campus Sexual Violence Against Women (SaVE) Act, and the 2005 Justice for All (“Debbie Smith”) Act. In her final term, Ms. Maloney secured House passage of what could become the nation’s first paid parental leave law.

A leading advocate for — and chief House sponsor of — the fight to recognize ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, she has long pressed for acknowledgment of its legality. Overcoming years-long resistance from the Senate, she also secured approval to build the forthcoming Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum on the National Mall.

In her final term in Congress, Rep. Maloney served as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee (its first-ever woman chair). Previously, she was the first woman to chair the Joint Economic Committee. In 2021, the Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked her the third-most effective lawmaker in the House of Representatives, while, in another study, Gov.Track rated her the second-most effective. Over the years, Rep. Maloney held scores of public meetings, district hearings, issue briefings, and news conferences at Roosevelt House on a variety of community and policy matters.

Maloney said: “I have always viewed public service as a ‘loan’ that I must repay every day by helping people. My work is far from over. I am just switching jobs. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working in public service at Hunter College in the outstanding City University system, helping to cultivate a new generation of progressive leaders through education, mentorship, and hands-on participation in the political process. I am truly grateful to Hunter President Raab for asking me to serve as Eleanor Roosevelt Leader. I look forward to an exciting and meaningful residency at Hunter, a world-class institution beloved by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, in the very home they once shared.”

Roosevelt House, an integral part of Hunter College since 1943, reopened in 2010 as a public policy institute honoring the distinguished legacies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who lived here from 1908 until 1933. Its mission is three-fold: to educate students in public policy and human rights, to support faculty research, and to foster creative dialogue and civic engagement. Roosevelt House also offers tours and exhibits that bring the history of the Roosevelts to a wide audience.

JOBS ADDED – UNEMPLOYMENT AT PRE-PANDEMIC LEVELS: House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries issued the following statement on the December Jobs Report, which showed the economy added 223,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent, is back to pre-pandemic levels:

“Led by President Biden, Democrats in the House and Senate have delivered tremendous results for the American people. Today’s report shows that during the first two years of the Biden Presidency, the United States gained a record 10.7 million good-paying jobs and the unemployment rate is at the lowest level in 50 years.

“In the historic 117th Congress, House Democrats passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to put millions of Americans to work, the American Rescue Plan to jumpstart our economic recovery and the CHIPS and Science Act to bring domestic manufacturing jobs back home.

“House Democrats are unified and ready to build upon this track record of putting People Over Politics to create better-paying jobs here in America. It is our hope that House Republicans will end their historic dysfunction, abandon extremism and join Democrats in fighting For The People.”

ALL VOTES COUNT(ED): PHEFFER AMATO’S HARD-FOUGHT WIN: After an extremely close race, on Jan. 4 it was announced by her campaign that “After a manual hand recount and court cases to ensure that every voter’s voice was heard and every vote counted, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato has been re-elected to represent the 23rd District in Queens.”

“I know this has been a long and difficult process for everyone involved,” said Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato. “The wheels of our American democracy do not always turn as quickly as we’d like, but preserving the integrity of our elections, ensuring the accuracy of the count, and defending the right of every voter’s voice to be heard is more important than expediency.”

In case anyone thinks their vote doesn’t matter, “The counting of 74 newly-cured absentee ballots, 4 affidavit ballots, and 11 ballots with votes cast for the two candidates all added to Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato’s lead, securing her re-election by a final margin of 15 votes,” her campaign noted.

“I want to thank all of my supporters, my family and friends, and my constituents for their patience throughout this process, and I am humbled and honored to once again be selected by the voters to represent this wonderful district,” said Pheffer Amato. “We have important work to do to fight for our community and stand up for our working families. This election is over, and I look forward to continuing this work for my constituents.”

Assemblymember Pheffer Amato prevailed with one of the largest over-performances in the state, exceeding the top-of-the-ticket by 24% due to crossover support. The election results are expected to be officially certified in the coming days.

RICHARDS ACCEPTING COMMUNITY BOARD APPLICATIONS: On the heels of two wildly successful efforts to both attract new members and correct long-standing demographic inequities across Queens’ 14 community boards, Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. is again accepting applications from qualified and civic-minded individuals interested in serving on their local community board.

As with the Borough President’s prior two iterations, the 2023 community board application can be filled out online, ensuring prospective applicants can complete the process quickly and easily, allowing for a more diverse applicant pool. The application requires neither notarization nor in-person delivery to the Queens Borough President’s Office.

“Government is at its most effective and impactful when people who come from and understand the needs of the communities it is sworn to serve are in positions of leadership. That’s what we’re actively working to create here in Queens with our 14 community boards,” said Borough President Richards. “I look forward to building on the progress we’ve made to diversify and strengthen our boards over the last two years, and I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in public service to apply over the next six weeks.”

The application is available online at www.queensbp.org/communityboards, and the deadline to submit the form is Thursday, February 16. This deadline applies to both new applicants and existing community board members seeking an additional term. For the upcoming round of appointments, the two-year term of service will begin on Saturday, April 1, 2023.

Over the course of his administration, Borough President Richards has worked diligently to grow interest in community board membership and address numerous demographic inequities around age, gender, background and more that have existed for years across Queens’ 14 community boards.

Combining the 2021 and 2022 community board processes, the Queens Borough President’s Office received a whopping 1,825 applications to serve on a community board, with both years shattering the pre-Richards single-year record for applications. The larger and more diverse applicant pools led to community board classes that were younger, more female and had greater percentages of members who identified as Latinx/Hispanic, African American, immigrant, South Asian, East Asian/Pacific Islander and LGBTQIA+, among other characteristics.

There are 59 community boards citywide, including 14 in Queens, and each hold monthly full membership meetings. The boards play an important advisory role in considering land use and zoning matters in their respective districts under the City’s Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure, in addition to holding hearings and issuing recommendations about the City budget, municipal service delivery and numerous other matters that impact their communities.

All Queens community board members are appointed by the Queens Borough President, pursuant to the City Charter, with half of the appointments nominated by the City Council Members representing their respective Community Districts. Each board has up to 50 unsalaried members, with each member serving a two-year term.

All community board members who wish to continue serving on a board are required to reapply at the conclusion of their two-year term and are subject to review and reconsideration.

JEFFRIES: ‘GOP CHAOS, DYSFUNCTION’ IN HOUSE: On Jan. 3, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA) “held a press availability after Republican chaos and dysfunction prevented the House from organizing on opening day for the first time in 100 years,” Jeffries stated.

Congress Member Jeffries: “It’s my honor to stand here with the House Democratic Whip, Katherine Clark, and the House Democratic Caucus Chair, Pete Aguilar. I want to thank Katherine for doing an extraordinary job today, making sure that Democrats were present, voting and entirely unified through the three different votes that took place. And I want to thank Pete Aguilar for his very kind and generous and thoughtful words of nomination.

“Today, for the first time in 100 years, the House of Representatives failed to organize on opening day. A sad day for the House of Representatives as an institution. A sad day for democracy. It’s a sad day for the American people. House Democrats are unified, ready, willing and able to get to work on behalf of everyday Americans. We are prepared to try to find common ground with the other side of the aisle to solve problems on behalf of the American people but we don’t have a willing partner in House Republicans.

“House Democrats are ready to continue to build upon the incredible progress that we made on behalf of the American people in the last Congress and continue to advocate and fight for better-paying jobs, lower costs, safer communities, defend democracy, fight for freedom, protect the public interest and ensure economic opportunity in every single corner of America. We’re ready, willing and able to get to work on behalf of the American people, but we don’t have a partner on the other side of the aisle because the Republican Conference has apparently been taken over by Extreme MAGA Republicans. And to the extent there are reasonable individuals on the other side of the aisle, they have no way out. Sad day for the institution of the House of Representatives, a sad day for democracy and a sad day for the American people.”

MENG SECURES $21M FOR QUEENS PROJECTS: U.S. Congress Member Grace Meng (D-Queens), New York’s senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced that she secured more than $21.3 million for 15 critical projects throughout Queens.

This crucial federal funding was included in the new 2023 government spending package that passed the House and Senate late last month, and has now been signed into law by President Biden.

“As I’ve said, Queens deserves its fair share, and I’m thrilled to bring back more money for critical projects here in our borough,” said Congress Member Meng. “I am especially pleased that I was able to secure more than double the amount of what I obtained in last year’s government spending bill. I am always honored and proud to fight for Queens and I’ll never stop working to ensure that our communities have the resources they need. I thank the President for signing the new spending bill into law, and look forward to this more than $21.3 million benefiting our borough, and the neighborhoods I represent, for many years to come.”

Meng obtained a total of $21,317,066 for the 15 projects, which meet many urgent needs in Queens. They include:

  • $7 million: Long Island Railroad (LIRR) Forest Hills station for the installation of new elevators, extending the platform length to accommodate more train cars (12 train cars), and several other station improvements.
  • $2 million: The City of New York’s District 6 Open Restaurants Dining Kits for helping under-resourced restaurants acquire safe, compliant, and aesthetically pleasing outdoor dining setups. These include restaurants hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic in low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods in Queens.
  • $2 million: Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council) for providing essential baby products and feminine hygiene products as part of its food programs to Queens residents.
  • Over $1.4 million: Queens College for its Small Business Development Initiative to strengthen partnerships between local small businesses and the newly established Queens College School of Business.
  • $1 million: New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst for the renovation of its Infectious Diseases Clinic.
  • $1 million: Queens Chamber of Commerce for its Small Business Legal Desk support program to support immigrant and small businesses in Queens.
  • $1 million: Long Island Jewish Forest Hills for the establishment of Robotic Assisted Orthopedic Surgery for hip and knee replacement procedures.
  • $1 million: Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council) for ensuring its emergency food programs meet the needs of food-insecure Queens residents.
  • $1 million: Commonpoint Queens for investing in unemployed and underemployed individuals in Queens to help them to gain skills and credentials to succeed in high-quality careers.
  • $800,000: LIFE Camp, Inc. for Therapeutic Wellness services in Queens to help increase community safety, life expectancy, quality of life, and allowing for trauma informed care and practices.
  • $750,000: 100 Suits for 100 Men for ensuring Queens neighborhoods receive resources and ongoing services as they recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and allowing for a needs assessment post COVID-19.
  • $750,000: Churches United for Fair Housing for supporting its housing related services that help tenants and those experiencing homelessness in Queens access safe and affordable housing.
  • $750,000: Queens College Colden Auditorium for this largest indoor venue in Queens to be accessible, affordable, and a facility that meets the technical and production needs of performers.
  • $551,210: DOROT (which serves older adults) for expanding its remote program in Queens.
  • $250,000: La Jornada for empowering Queens families out of poverty.

The money that Meng secured is allocated under Congress’ Community Project Funding. The House Appropriations Committee is the panel that funds all of the federal government’s agencies, programs, and projects. In last year’s government spending bill, the Congress Member obtained nearly $10 million for projects throughout Queens.

NEW LAWS OF THE LAND: As the New Year approached, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. released on Dec. 30 a summary of some of the 200 new state laws that went into effect as of January 1, 2023.

One of the new laws that will take effect on the first day of the New Year is Addabbo’s bill (S.2928A) that adds siblings to the definition of “family member” for the purposes of paid family leave. Paid family leave became the law of the land in New York back in 2016, and Governor Kathy Hochul signed Addabbo’s bill to add siblings — which includes biological or adopted sibling, half-sibling or stepsibling — to the list of family members you can take time off to care for in 2021 to go into effect next year.

“Many times a sibling may be the only family a person has left, and I am proud to say that starting in 2023 you will be able to take time off from work to care for a sibling and know that you will still get paid a portion of your salary,” Addabbo said. “This will ease the burden on thousands of New York families and allow people to be with their loved ones in times of need.”

Other laws that will go into effect on January 1, 2023 are:

  • A law that will allow the counting of an affidavit ballot of an eligible voter if the voter appeared at a polling place in the correct county but in the incorrect election district. It also allows a ballot to be cast and canvassed where a person was entitled to vote, but the ballot envelope was invalid on its face due to ministerial error by the board of elections.
  • Establishing a task force and annual report to examine social media and violent extremism.
  • Today (January 11) a new law will require instruction in pedestrian and bicyclist safety as part of the drivers pre-licensing course.
  • The Electric Vehicle Rights Act prevents a homeowners association from adopting or enforcing any rules or regulations that would effectively prohibit, or impose unreasonable limitations on the installation or use of an electric vehicle charging station. This goes into effect on January 21, 2023.
  • A new law goes into effect on March 6, 2023 that will require that telemarketers and robocallers give customers the option to be added to their company’s do-not-call list right after the telemarketer’s name and the person on whose behalf the solicitation is being made are provided.
  • The New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act goes into effect which allows student-athletes to receive endorsement compensation, prohibiting New York schools from taking away the scholarships or eligibility of any athlete making money from such endorsements.
  • A new law starting January 1 would require airports in New York State to provide a nursing space for breast-feeding mothers behind the security screening area equipped with a chair and an electrical outlet away from public view.
  • Prohibits the making of selling cosmetics which are tested on animals.
  • The New York Textile Act which looks to accelerate the growth of the animal and plant fiber growing, processing, and textile manufacturing industry in New York by supporting it through economic development programs, including expanding annual farm recognition awards, state procurement process training for small businesses, and the Excelsior jobs program to include such New York products and processes.
  • A new section of Brianna’s Law will go into effect on January 1 that mandates boat safety instructional courses as a prerequisite for obtaining boating licenses for all operators born on or after January 1, 1978. Current law only requires boating classes to be taken by individuals born after May 1, 1996.

“I think it is important that constituents know the laws that could possibly impact their lives,” Addabbo explained. “These new laws that will go into effect in 2023 will go to benefit a wide range of New Yorkers. As we prepare for the 2023 legislative session, we will work to implement even more laws to better the lives of all New Yorkers.”

AOC’S ‘MAJOR WINS OF 2022’: On Dec. 31, Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ office released the following summary of her major legislative wins of 2022:

“As 2022 winds down, we’re looking back on our incredible work together this year. Today, we’re excited to highlight some of our major legislative wins of 2022! This year, we introduced 33 pieces of legislation — 17 passed the House and 8 were signed into law. Here’s just a snapshot of some of the major wins:

  • First major gun reform in 30 years: This new law will close dangerous loopholes, increase background checks, and crack down on interstate gun trafficking. Ocasio-Cortez also secured a $400,000 grant to Jacobi’s Stand Up to Violence Program in our district, which has a proven record of reducing violence by 50 percent.
  • Progress on taxing the rich: A new 15% minimum tax rate on the wealthiest corporations through the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act).
  • Capped insulin at $35 per month under Medicare: As a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, the government will be able to negotiate lower prices on select prescription drugs for seniors on Medicare for the first time. The bill also caps out-of-pocket costs for medication for seniors to a maximum of $2,000 per year (down from the current $10,000+ a year for the costliest drugs) and restricts insulin costs to $35 a month for Medicare recipients.
  • The largest-ever investment in fighting climate change: In August, Congress passed the largest ever investment in fighting climate change with $369 billion. This funding is expected to create 9 million new jobs in renewable energy and lower annual energy bills by $1,000 per household. It’s estimated that this bill will reduce greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030 and it dedicates $60 billion for environmental justice in communities hardest hit by climate change and fossil fuels.
  • 431,000 families received a total of $2.7 billion for funeral assistance: Ocasio-Cortez fought for and won funeral assistance for families who’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19. Since that time, the program has distributed over $2.7 billion to over 431,000 families to date.”

“There are so many more wins that we couldn’t possibly cover them all in one email, but we hope seeing these here serves a reminder that change is possible — and it’s happening in big and small ways all the time.”

BIDDING BEGINS FOR CASINO LICENSES: New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., the Chair of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, said on Jan. 4, “When mobile sports betting went live in New York nearly one year ago, the New York State Gaming Commission did an incredible job in outlining the rules, regulations and timeline for operators to provide New Yorkers with top-of-the-line products. And the benefits from that decision are now being felt across the state as New York has already taken in more than $500 million in tax revenue in just about one year.

“I am looking forward to a transparent, accurate and speedy process from the New York Gaming Facility Location Board, under the guidance of the Gaming Commission, as they unanimously voted to issue a Request for Applications (RFA) to solicit proposals for up to three commercial casinos in New York State. I have faith that the Location Board will thoroughly examine each RFA and make the best short- and long-term decision, based on their set of criteria. The quicker the three licenses are approved, the quicker we can begin to realize the major benefits to the state, such as thousands of construction and post-construction jobs, billions in revenue from the licenses, an increase in problem gambling monies and programs, as well as billions more in educational funding when the winning casinos go live.”

JAMES SUES AUTO LENDER FOR ‘CHEATING THOUSANDS’: New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Jan. 4 sued Credit Acceptance Corporation (CAC), one of the nation’s largest subprime auto lenders, for deceiving thousands of low-income New Yorkers into high-interest car loans, she charged. The lawsuit alleges that CAC pushed unaffordable loans onto tens of thousands of low-income consumers throughout the state without considering their ability to repay their loans in full. CAC misstated key terms on loan agreements, including the principal and interest amounts, and did not disclose thousands of dollars in credit charges. In addition, CAC packaged these illegal loans into securities that it sold to investors. These deceptive lending practices lowered consumers’ credit scores and cost New Yorkers millions of dollars. The lawsuit seeks to end CAC’s abusive and deceptive practices, reform or eliminate existing CAC loan agreements, and collect restitution for impacted consumers.

“CAC claimed to help low-income New Yorkers purchase cars, but instead, drove them straight into debt,” said Attorney General James. “CAC steered hardworking New Yorkers toward financial ruin by tricking them into unaffordable, high-interest auto loans while cutting backroom deals with dealers to protect their own profits. These predatory actions hurt innocent people and left them with mountains of debt. I thank the CFPB for their partnership to stop this harm and protect everyday New Yorkers.”

“Credit Acceptance obscured the true cost of its loans to car buyers, leading to severe financial distress for borrowers and subjecting them to aggressive debt collection tactics on loans its own systems predicted that borrowers can’t afford to repay,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “The CFPB’s action with the New York Attorney General seeks to end Credit Acceptance’s unlawful practices and makes consumers whole.”

CAC is a subprime auto lender that claims to help low-income borrowers with low or little credit history get loan approval and improve their credit. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that CAC’s lending practices were deceptive and left tens of thousands of New Yorkers with massive debt. The OAG’s investigation also found that CAC routinely pushed borrowers into purchasing vehicles that were worth far less than their loans. This predatory practice led many borrowers to lose their vehicles through repossession, while still owing thousands of dollars on the loans. CAC attempted to collect on those loans through lawsuits, default judgments, debt collection, and wage garnishment. Even borrowers who paid off their CAC loans ended up paying thousands of dollars more in hidden credit charges that CAC and car dealerships they were affiliated with built into the loan agreements.

The OAG’s investigation found that while CAC’s loan agreements in New York claimed an annual percentage rate (APR) of 22.99 percent or 23.99 percent, CAC actually charged more than 38 percent APR on average — and on numerous occasions charged more than 100 percent APR. As a result of CAC’s high-interest loans, nearly 90 percent of New York borrowers became delinquent on their loans at some point, often leading to additional fees that added to the cost of their already expensive car loans. More than half of New York borrowers failed to repay their loans by the terms of the loan agreements, with 44 percent of New York borrowers experiencing repossession at some point.

“As an example of CAC’s typical business practices, one consumer, who supports two minor children, signed up for a CAC loan requiring her to pay more than $13,000, despite the dealer needing only $5,614 to sell her the car. After she paid more than $7,600 to CAC, they repossessed her vehicle, sold it at auction, and sued her for more than $7,500,” the Attorney General noted.

The lawsuit alleges that CAC projected, down to the penny, how much money it could extract from borrowers through loan payments, late fees, repossession and auction, debt collection, and wage garnishment, without considering a consumer’s ability to repay their loan. CAC then offered to split the projected collections with its affiliated dealers. Through this practice, CAC ensured that as long as it collected the projected amount, both CAC and the dealer would profit — even if the borrower ended up in delinquency, default, or had the vehicle repossessed.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that CAC cut deals with its affiliated dealerships and assisted them in misleading consumers by including costly add-on products in their purchases. Despite receiving repeated complaints that its dealers fraudulently told consumers that these products were required and that dealers even included the products without the consumer’s consent, CAC took no action to stop this. Instead, CAC continued to incentivize its dealers to push these products and actually adopted e-signing practices that made it easier for dealers to include the products with little or no notice to consumers.

The final step in CAC’s deception was to unload a large proportion of the loans onto unsuspecting investors, packaging the consumer loans into securities. In creating, marketing, and selling these securities, CAC represented to initial purchasers, rating agencies, and investors who purchased the securities that the underlying loans complied with applicable law. However, these representations were false, and the lawsuit alleges that CAC’s statements constituted securities fraud under New York’s Martin Act.

Through this lawsuit, Attorney General James seeks to stop CAC’s abusive and deceptive practices, reform or rescind existing CAC loan agreements, provide restitution to impacted New Yorkers, and secure penalties and damages from CAC due to this unacceptable and illegal behavior.

The OAG encourages New Yorkers who have had negative experiences or feel they have been taken advantage of by CAC or its affiliated dealers to formsnym.ag.ny.gov/OAGOnlineSubmissionForm/faces/OAGCFCHome;jsessionid=X3-YAmFADSE5blTaWWm8tae1sHyzFggq8DF0W04dFXRWjowju0kU!-2106559734

FREE PHONES FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVORS: The Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City have teamed up with T-Mobile and its Assurance Wireless program again to help survivors of domestic and gender-based violence with their immediate safety needs. Building upon a previous initiative that ENDGBV launched with T-Mobile in June 2021 to provide free phones and discounted mobile plans to survivors of domestic and gender-based violence through their local T-Mobile stores, the Assurance Wireless program will enable survivors to apply for a free phone and mobile service from the safety and comfort of the City’s five borough-based Family Justice Centers. The Assurance Wireless program combines federal Lifeline Assistance and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)* benefits to offer free unlimited data, talk, and text as well as free 10GB mobile hotspot data every month, plus a free smartphone to eligible recipients. Survivors will be able to apply for Assurance Wireless services from the Family Justice Centers making it easier to access the technology they need to be connected to their support systems and service providers.

The in-kind program begins distribution of these resources on January 5. Survivors can call or walk into any New York City Family Justice Centers for an overview of the program and to discuss eligibility. Family Justice Center staff help interested survivors apply, and the phone and mobile plan are immediately activated on-site for those eligible. Survivors can leave Family Justice Centers with a free smartphone that has unlimited minutes, texting, and data capability, enabling them to stay connected to their networks. This ability to safely reach out to supportive people and service providers is a key part of the safety planning process for many survivors.

This impactful public and private sector collaboration with T-Mobile compliments ENDGBV’s suite of technological tools and cybersecurity protection services for survivors. In February 2021, ENDGBV and the Mayor’s Fund partnered with NortonLifeLock which donated 2,000 one-year Norton 360 Deluxe licenses for comprehensive cybersecurity with mobile phones, computers and tablets. ENDGBV also works with Cornell Tech and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering to provide survivors with privacy checks-ups for their mobile devices, tablets and computers to help prevent digital abuse and cyberstalking. Survivors are encouraged to call or walk into a Family Justice center to be connected to services including exploring this option. Queens NYC Family Justice Center: 718-575-4545.

*ACP is a government program that reduces eligible customers’ internet service bill. One discount per household and is non-transferable. Additional terms and restrictions apply. See affordableconnectivity.gov and assurancewireless.com for details.

Help is Available: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or gender-based violence:

  • Call 311 and ask to be connected to the nearest NYC Family Justice Center. NYC Family Justice Centers offer immediate safety planning, shelter assistance, mental health support, and other resources by phone or in person. For in-person services, clients can make an appointment or walk in if they cannot engage in remote services safely or effectively.
  • Find resources and support in NYC by searching New York City’s HOPE Resource Directory online at www.nyc.gov/NYCHOPE
  • Call New York City’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-621-HOPE (4673) for immediate safety planning, shelter assistance, and other resources. TTY: 866-604-5350
  • In an emergency, dial 911.

10 YEARS FOR SEX TRAFFICKING TEENAGE GIRL: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Darius “Gotti” Fleming was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sex trafficking of a child after forcing a 14-year-old girl to have sex with strangers for cash at a hotel in Jamaica, Queens. The victim was rescued from a home in Brooklyn, where she was forced to reside with her traffickers, when police searched the location as part of another investigation.

District Attorney Katz said: “I’m committed to getting sex traffickers out of our borough. Young women are exploited by predators and that is the reason I have put resources, investigators and a Human Trafficking Bureau behind combatting these crimes. Thanks to the work of my team, the first of four defendants who trafficked this 14-year-old girl will now be sentenced to 10 years. I will not relent in seeking justice for the victims of human trafficking.”

Having pleaded guilty in November to sex trafficking of a child, Fleming, 30, of 105th Avenue in Jamaica, was sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice Gia Morris to 10 years in prison to be followed by 5 years post-release supervision. Fleming will also be required to register as sex offender upon his release.

According to the charges, Fleming and co-defendant Amor Toussaint met the victim in January at the Van Wyck Hotel in Jamaica and refused to let her leave until she agreed to participate in sexual acts in exchange for money and hand over 30 percent of the proceeds. The victim was forced into taking nude photographs which the defendants then posted as online prostitution advertisements. After engaging in sexual acts with strangers and providing a portion of the proceeds to the defendants, Fleming and Toussaint accused the victim of stealing from them and forced the victim to continue working to pay back the money she was accused of stealing.

Toussaint later “sold” the victim to co-defendant Troy “Drippy Big D” Siddons for $300 cash. The victim was rescued on January 23, 2022, when police entered a home in Brooklyn as part of a separate investigation. The victim resided in the house against her will with Siddons and a fourth co-defendant, Dwayne “Wayne” Pickett. All four defendants were indicted on 15-counts of sex trafficking of a child, promoting prostitution in the first degree, and other crimes in September. Toussaint and Pickett are currently in custody; Siddons remains at large.

22 YEARS FOR SHOOTING WIFE: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Malcom White was sentenced on Jan. 6 to 22 years-to-life in prison for shooting his wife during a dispute at a hotel in Jamaica, in March 2020. White had been convicted in July.

District Attorney Katz said: “I believe that the sentence imposed today provides at least some measure of peace to the victim as she continues to recover. I urge victims of domestic violence who need safety planning services, or help in securing an order of protection or shelter placement, to call us or contact a Family Justice Center immediately.”

White, 44, of Kirkman Avenue in Elmont, was convicted by a jury in July following a two-week trial on charges of attempted murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Judge Michael Yavinsky sentenced White to 22 years-to-life in prison.

According to the complaint, on March 27, 2020, emergency medical technicians and police were called to the Hillside Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Jamaica. White was in one of the rooms with the victim, his 34-year-old wife, and warned responders, in sum and substance, “If you come in here, I’ll blow her head off.”

In searching for White, police found the victim in the hotel lobby, naked, with a gunshot wound to her arm and, as would be diagnosed later, several bone fractures to her face. Police gained entry to the defendant’s hotel room by kicking in the dead-bolted door and found blood in various places. Police later recovered a fired bullet from the room’s bathtub and two cell phones—one concealed under the mattress and another in the toilet. The defendant was discovered naked behind the hotel. Police also recovered an unloaded revolver near the back of the hotel.

CORONA MAN CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED MURDER: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Edward Huerta was arraigned on charges of attempted murder and other crimes for allegedly attacking his roommate and cousin in their Corona residence. The 19-year-old female victim suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on her brain, among other injuries, after Huerta allegedly assaulted her with a baseball bat and knife on Jan. 2.

District Attorney Katz said: “At the center of domestic violence prosecutions is the brutality and intimidation batterers use to impose their will on their victims. We will hold accountable the person who is allegedly responsible for this savage assault that has left a young woman fighting for her life.”

Huerta, 21, of 108th Street in Corona, was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on a complaint charging him with attempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first and second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Judge Diego Freire ordered Huerta to return to Court on January 6. If convicted, Huerta faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the charges, on Monday, January 2, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Huerta was with a female cousin inside the apartment where both reside near the intersection of 108th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. Witnesses reportedly heard the victim, Ana Lucia Quiroz Chimborazo, screaming. Huerta allegedly barricaded the woman inside the apartment and violently attacked her, hitting her multiple times with a baseball bat. The defendant allegedly stabbed Quiroz Chimborazo multiple times in the face, chest and arms.

Other family members attempted to enter the apartment, which Huerta fled by jumping from a window. Police responding to the location cornered the defendant near the residence. Huerta allegedly said in sum and substance, “I wanted to die with her, I wanted to commit suicide with her.” The victim was found lying unconscious on her bed after the attack.

The victim was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of her injuries, including lacerations to the face, a skull fracture, bleeding on her brain and other trauma wounds. The defendant was also taken to a local hospital.

ROZIC ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR FRESH MEADOWS SCHOOL: Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D, WF-Queens) is announcing that she has allocated $250,000 for the upgrading of P.S. 154’s computer lab and classroom. The state funding will be used to purchase 36 desktop computers, 2 color printers, 1 Promethean board, and 1 document camera.

“Having updated technology is crucial for engagement and learning across the board,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “I understand the importance of prioritizing funding for our youngest scholars. Every student deserves to have the technology and resources necessary in order to learn and grow.”

The new equipment will provide support for the digital arts program, where 5th grade students engage with graphic design. It will also support the “Math Problem-Solving Lab”, where students will be able to visualize their thinking while problem-solving.

“Our mathematicians at P.S. 154 are grateful to Assemblywoman Rozic for her generous donation,” said Principal Pamela Gathers. “This technology gives our students access to engaging high-interest learning opportunities.”

Earlier this year, Rozic also announced $375,000 in funding for upgrades to Townsend Harris High School’s student publication center and music tech space as well as $120,000 for technology upgrades at P.S. 120 in Flushing.

TOWN HALL MEETING: The We Love Whitestone group is holding a Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 7:30 pm at Holy Cross Greek Church (basement), 11-05 150th Street, Whitestone. The Guest Speaker is DI Louren E. Hall, Commanding Officers, 109th Precinct.

PALADINO REFLECTS ON 2022: Councilwoman Vickie Paladino has sponsored several pieces of legislation that passed this year, as well as introduced her own pieces of legislation.

Legislation sponsored by the Councilwoman that has passed:

Res 0162-2022 – Resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, amendments to article 4 of the Public Service Law to prevent a utility’s rate case from exceeding a certain percentage each year.

Int 0759-2022 – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to a catalytic converter etching program.

Int 0116-2022 – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to creating a one-stop shop small business portal.

Int 0136-2022 – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the capabilities of community-based organizations to provide language services to support city services.

Int 0404-2022 – A Local Law in relation to a report tracking the funds paid pursuant to the New York opioid settlement sharing agreement.

Legislation introduced by the Councilwoman:

Res 0341-2022 – Resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would prohibit the alteration of terms and conditions of employment for all employees during a state disaster emergency.

Res 0342-2022 – Resolution calling upon the Mayor and the New York City Department of Education to establish rigorous scientific criteria, including an emphasis on mental health repercussions, that must be met before masking is mandated upon schoolchildren.

Int 0772-2022 – A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to reporting on criteria for mask mandates in schools within the city school district upon the implementation of such a mandate and monthly thereafter for the duration of such a mandate.

Res 0343-2022 – Resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and Governor to sign, S.7545 /A.9342, to make the extension of certain local emergency orders subject to the approval of the local governing.

Res 0422-2022 – Resolution calling upon the New York City Department of Education to expand career-connected learning programs and opportunities at all public high schools.

UNG’S TWO BILLS PASS CITY COUNCIL: At its last meeting before a short holiday break, the City Council passed two bills Council Member Sandra Ung sponsored that will expand language access services for small business owners, as well as those who have come to this country seeking refuge or asylum.

Intro 697-A requires the city to address language access needs when a sudden increase in those services occurs, if that language is not already among the ten designated citywide languages. That could include Pashto to better serve Afghans settling in Queens, language services for the Sudanese community in Brooklyn, or Ukrainian for refugees fleeing the conflict in their country.

“As a beacon for individuals from across the world, the United States welcomes those who would seek asylum or refuge from war, famine and other tragedies. It is incumbent on us as a city to ensure that these individuals are receiving services in the languages they speak,” said Council Member Ung.

My other bill, Intro 699-A is much more comprehensive, and applies to our immigrant small business owners. A key component of the legislation requires the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), when requested, to translate rulings on city summonses. It will apply to summonses issued by the departments of Buildings, Consumer and Worker Protection, Health and Mental Hygiene, Environmental Protection and Sanitation, as well as the Fire Department. Once a decision is rendered by OATH, a respondent will receive a form in the ten citywide designated languages instructing them how to request a translation of the decision in the language of their choice, how to appeal the ruling, and how to file for an extension on their appeal.”

The legislation also:

  • Mandates that each city agency submit annually a report on the number of inspectors who are fluent in a language other than English, beginning January 1, 2024;
  • Requires the city to translate the Business Owner Bill of Rights into at least six of the citywide designated languages most commonly spoken by New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, as well as make the translations available online; and
  • Requires the city to translate the Inspection Code of Conduct and instruct inspectors to inform business owners of available translation services for contesting a violation or making a complaint about an inspector.

“For small business owners who are focused on day-to-day operations, staying knowledgeable of and complying with the myriad rules and regulations imposed by the city can be a challenge. But for business owners with limited English proficiency, it can be an especially daunting task. Immigrant-owned small businesses are the backbone of the city’s economy, and expanding language access will remove another barrier to their success. My two bills were actually part of a larger package of bills the City Council passed to improve language access across city government,” noted Ung.

UNION CARPENTERS, CONTRACTORS TOY DRIVES: The New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters and the Carpenter Contractor Alliance of Metropolitan New York delivered over 1,734 toys to children throughout Queens and New York City this holiday season. They partnered with local elected officials and community organizations for 3 events throughout Queens and many more throughout the city.

“The holiday season is joyful but can be difficult for so many New Yorkers, and union carpenters and contractors wanted to do their part to give back to those in need.”

Holiday toy drives in Queens were held in partnership with elected officials and community organizations, including Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, Council Member Francisco Moya, and Catholic Charities.

Across New York City, union carpenters participated in 18 toy drives in an effort to alleviate stress on families, spread kindness, and foster holiday cheer.

“Giving back to the community is one of the New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters and the Carpenter Contractor Alliance of Metropolitan New York’s core values. The annual toy drives are part of a larger effort to give back and uplift communities to build a better New York,” the union stated.

“Every year I am proud of the work our union members do to give back to our communities. It is uplifting to end every year with our toy drives, where we get to spread holiday cheer to the children in our community and relieve some stress for families in need,” stated Executive Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Geiger. “We hope everyone has a healthy and happy holiday with their loved ones.”

“The holidays are meant to be a time to celebrate with family and friends, but they can be stressful for many New Yorkers. I was so happy to join CCA Metro and the carpenters union for their holiday toy drive and uplift the members of our community who are struggling. I hope all our community members have a happy holiday,” stated Assembly Member Catalina Cruz.

“It’s an honor to work alongside the carpenters union at their annual toy drive, it was a joyous event to be a part of. I’m so glad to wrap up the year by connecting with our community members and bringing cheer to families right here in Queens. Wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season,” stated Council Member Francisco Moya.

About NYCDCC: The New York City District Council of Carpenters is a representative body comprised of nine individual Locals and 22,000 union members. “The District Council functions as the voice for thousands of New York City’s most dedicated and skilled carpenters, millwrights, dockbuilders, marine divers, core drillers, timbermen, concrete carpenters, cabinetmakers, floor-coverers and industrial workers.”

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

This column was originated by John A. Toscano

 

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